THE BLOG
08/11/2014 08:44 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2014

America Runs the Risk of Ground Troops If President Obama Fails to Save Iraq From ISIS

Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

All air strikes are planned alongside the possibility of ground troops being deployed, even if President Obama states, "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again...We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in thousands of troops and committing the kind of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq." The president has already sent 300 American military advisers to Iraq and if ISIS attacks Bagdad; it is entirely possible that advisers to the president would advocate sending ground troops. According to CBS News on July 1, the U.S. still has a small, but growing presence in Iraq:

The U.S. currently has approximately 750 troops in Iraq, the Pentagon says, including 100 that predate the unfolding crisis there and about 650 who have been sent to help protect U.S. personnel and assist the Iraq army on the deteriorating security conditions.

The number of troops sent to deal with the ongoing crisis nearly doubled in the last several days with the addition of 300 military personnel sent to Baghdad Sunday and Monday. That figure could still go up: President Obama has authorized the Pentagon to send up to 770 troops to protect the embassy and advise the Iraqi army in relation to the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Not only could "that figure still go up," but if President Obama fails to manage the latest Iraq quagmire effectively, a new ground war in Iraq might take place if not within his presidency, then potentially during the next presidency after 2016.

Already, the prospect of sending soldiers back to Iraq by the thousands has grown in recent months because of the territory acquired by ISIS. According to an August 10 ABC News article, the chances of ground troops are dependent upon how fast Iraq unravels:

Retired Gen. Carter Ham, who served as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Mosul, Iraq, from 2004-2005, told ABC News' Martha Raddatz on "This Week" Sunday that initial U.S. airstrikes against ISIS forces advancing toward the city of Erbil have "given pause" to the terrorist group, but that much more will need to be done to halt their progress.

"It will be very difficult without U.S. ground forces or ground forces of others," Ham said when asked if airstrikes will accomplish the President Obama's goals to protect Americans in the region, stop the humanitarian crisis, eliminate ISIS safe havens, and protect Iraqi infrastructure. The airstrikes come two and a half years after the last American troops left Iraq in Dec. 2011.

... Some critics of the president's decision have alleged that the airstrikes will lead to "mission creep" and a return to heavy U.S. involvement in the region. Gen. Ham disagreed, but added that the level of American involvement is still unknown.

So, if the advance of a genocidal group named ISIS isn't halted soon, the odds of a scenario described by General Ham increase exponentially. This would not only be demoralizing for the country, but another war in Iraq would also be difficult on a military still trying to recover from a war that entailed more tours of duty than any war in U.S. history. The Veterans Administration and the issues it has faced in recent years would undoubtedly be affected by another war. Also, "mission creep" has happened in the past, and Vietnam comes to mind in relation to the phrase.

Therefore, even if President Obama sticks to his word and doesn't commit U.S. soldiers to another war in Iraq, future President Rick Perry might have a different outlook on the crisis. Gov. Perry recently stated, "Our allies need to know that we're going to be there for them. I think signaling whether we are going to have boots on the ground or whether we're going to be doing it through this particular means or not -- I think we need to keep all of our options open."

Echoing Rick Perry, Sen. John McCain has stated that ground troops are needed to stabilize Iraq, even if they're not fighting:

McCain called for Obama to fire his national security team, saying the decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq created a predictable vacuum that led to the current crisis.

To McCain, a residual force of U.S. troops should have remained in Iraq to provide stability, "the same kind of residual force that we have now in Bosnia, that we have in Germany, we have in Japan."

"That doesn't mean we're in combat. It means we are there as a stabilizing force," he said, adding that the ISIS advance represents "an existential threat" to America. He linked the Iraq situation to the administration's reluctance to strongly support opposition forces in Syria's civil war, a policy he called "one of the causative factors" for the Iraq crisis.

While the GOP is more willing to send in ground troops for a wider escalation (foreshadowing how a Republican president might handle the situation) this decision could also happen under the Obama administration. ISIS already has control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city as well as Fallujah, Tikrit, and other cities. If they make an attempt at Bagdad or inflict greater losses upon Kurdish forces, it's entirely possible that Obama acquiesces to GOP calls for increased military action or decides on his own to send in troops.

While some say ISIS is part of a backlash against an Iraqi government that favors Shia over Sunni, the fact that Iraq's leadership is part of the problem is another reason President Obama must handle this situation wisely. The manner in which he manages Iraq at a moment when the Yazidis face genocide and Bagdad risks a potential attack from ISIS will define the Obama presidency more than Obamcare or any other endeavor during the past six years. Sadly, after a war that is said to have ended in 2011, the U.S. faces the real prospect of sending additional ground troops once again. If ISIS and instability continue to become an increased national security threat, it is entirely possible that we have a third Iraq War. Thus far, Obama has presided over tragedy in Iraq and must ensure that the country doesn't implode even further into madness and chaos. The true test of this presidency will be how Obama solves the Iraq quagmire as well as how he plans on defeating ISIS in Iraq.

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